August, 2012

01-08-12 until 06-08-12, Driving to Kluane National Park & Camping there

Camping on the shore of Kluane LakeAfter letting our families know that the coming time we wont be able to use internet not talking about absent mobile coverage for weeks already, we headed on towards Kluane NP. The fist camping spot was a very pretty place, we had a great overlook at the mountains, wilderness was all around us. Iryna enjoyed her wild-strawberries and she baked some tasty cookies (the amount of which would feed a whole orphan house) Goofy did some reading. The hwy along Kluane NP is just amazing!!! We enjoyed it so much!!! We can not describe how stunning it is! Especially the area around Kluane Lake! It's so wild, so pure and so silent.....amazing mountains rising along the way and this beautifully emerald Kluane Lake, it is worth the journey! We were so lucky to spend a night at this beautiful lake, we had a fire going and a book in our hands, we enjoyed the unspoiled nature around us....once in a while the silence was broken by the wind, we had a feeling we are far north, in an unreached place..... The next day we visited the visitor center for Kluane NP. We looked at some hikes & decided to go for a 2 to 3 day hike. After preparing, bread, the bear prove container (which is free, only a deposit is asked) the backpacks, batteries, trail etc it was already close to 4pm & we decided that we won't go today but tomorrow (the 4th of august). In order to be able to do a hike like this, you need to get a wilderness permit for camping and you need to watch a movie about the behavior of bears and what you should and shouldn't do when you see a bear. This movie made us think again if we want to go hiking in a bear country....well we couldn't resist the beauty of the park, so we are definitely going and will risk a bear encounter. But no worries, now we know what to do if we see one;) In the evening we're preparing ourselves a little more. The weather forecast for the 4th is nicely sunny so we do hope so. It's raining now so let's hope it's better tomorrow. We stayed at the same spot as yesterday, did work on our site. (PS for the people wondering how we can work on our site in the middle of nowhere without internet, it's quite easy: We set up an offline copy of our site on the little laptop we've got.).
So we did our first 2-day hike. The trial itself started out fairly easy. Along a clear trail we went up & up. After a couple a k's we had a splendid view over the Kluane glacier. Our track continued on a well marked path for 10k's, after that it was just a small mountain goat trail. After 12 km we ended up in a nice wilderness, no path's, no tracks (except from some bear, Caribou/Moose & porcupine haha). Well, about bear marks, they were everywhere, almost each km we saw fresh footprints or droppings of bears, Iryna wasn't amused about that finding when Govert didn't seem to give a rats-ass about it! But anyways, from here on we had to find our way to the RV. The RV is parked at the end point so as we arrive at the end of our trail there is a nice hot shower waiting. Anyways, we continued along sheep creek, this continuing sounds easier than it is. The river bed is littered with rather big rocks on which we hike. A couple a times we had to cross the stream but as we have proper shoes that isn't a big problem. The views of the surrounding mountains is just grand. We walked quit long till about 22:00, as it's light till 23:30 this is no problem. We were quit tired so after making a little fire & a meal we called it a day. The next morning we carried on again & after 4 hours we reached the source of sheep creek. From there on another stream starts (Congdon Creek) and we'll follow that down to the RV. The source of Congdon creek is a small lake in the shadow of the Red Castle Ridge, if you look at the pic you'll know why it's called that way :-).
Creek crossingAfter a while the creek got wider & wider but unfortunately it also started to meander far more so we were forced to cross the stream several times, at first we did it by way of rocks but soon the stream got to wide & deep for that so we used a fallen down tree. As you can imagine our progress was measured in meters instead of kilometers... After a while we decided that it was impossible to find & carry trees to where we wanted to cross so we used our last resort, Teva's (kinda sturdy water shoes). The water was COLD. Darn darn darn what was that water cold. Fortunately the water didn't get much higher then knee level but nevertheless it was COLD. We walked for 5 km with our Teva's and crossed the creek like 20 times or so. Round 17:00 we stopped for some warm food & tea. Quickly made a small fire & cooked on our gasoline stove a nice warm meal & some hot tea! From there on we carried on. A creek bedding is not the easiest surface to hike on but outside of that the views are just stunning, so wild, so cool, so indescribable!!! Around 20:00 we were thoroughly tired. Our packs weigh around 15 - 17 kilos each so after a day hike they feel at least twice that heavy ;-). On the GPS from the phone we could see that we had to continue for some 5 km's more. So we decided to push through. Around 23:00 we arrived at the RV, the 'trail' ended right across the road from the RV. We took a nice shower and went to bed, for your information, we felt like 60 years old. The things below your ankle felt like one big bruise... But after looking at the pics all that was quickly forgotten! The next day we returned the bear box & continued towards the Alaskan border. Just before Beaver Creek (YT) we found a nice spot to camp. As our drinking water was about to go we decided to use the switch GoofY made quite a while ago in the States to be able to switch from internal to external watertank. Filled the external drinking water tank with water from the river and connected that, it works like a charm!!! In the morning a nice shower & than onto Alaska, biggest question is, are we allowed back in to the States. We heard from some fellow travelers that if you've been to the States in the previous 3 months you're not allowed to enter... We'll see!

06-08-12 until 10-08-12, Entering Alaska and driving from Tok to Valdez

Watching the sunset in Tetlin, AKWell, fortunately we could go in to Alaska. And so now we're in the 49th state of the USA. On our way to Tok, it's a little highway community which has a couple a gas stations, visitor center, a groceries store & plenty of RV repair places (we counted 8 on the way in). Apparently people damage their rigs on the tarmac??? Well, the road is bumpy but if you take it slowly there's no problem. But we've also seen people rushing past us with the big rigs (the tour-bus size ones) with 55 miles/100km p/hour while we're doing only 35 m/h or 55 km/h, because of the frost heaves. We stayed the night in Tetlin Natl Wild-life refugee. It was a free campgrounds with pit toilet, water pump & fire pit. We watched the sundown on the lake, which was quite pretty. Meanwhile we had a fire going so everything was OK. Anyway in Tok we managed to get quite cheap gasoline there ($3.86 a gallon roughly a $1 a liter). Filled up the propane tank & uploaded the site at a free but SOOOOOOOOOO slow a WIFI point. It also had a time limit on it, so after half an hour it would just stop. We had to connect the telephone, the normal laptop (which managed about 70% of the site to upload and the other laptop for the rest of the 30%, but it worked haha). Then it was onto our way to Valdez, we slept near Tok creek, watched our fav movie (Mr & Mrs Smith) & went to bed.Bold Headed EagleThe next day we continued to Valdez and had a stop at the Visitor Center of Ellias & Wrangler NP. (Can you imagine that it's actually bigger than Switzerland, land wise & mountain wise.) While we were there a guy from a bird refugee camp made his 'acte de presence'. He had a bold headed eagle, a greyblack owl & a snow owl with him. All of the birds were kinda disabled so they couldn't be put back in the wild so they're touring with the guy throughout the USA. After that we went for a State Campground, $15 with water-pump, outhouse & garbage collector. No worries there. Hmm, for the people wondering what we're eating all the time: Home made Pizza is a fav, it's toppings: pineapple, capers, salami, cheese, blue-cheese, mushrooms, red pepper, spicy red pepper & olives. Home made bread, home made soup, home made mushroom sauce (from own fresh picked mushrooms). So a lot of fresh stuff. The only things we do eat badly is crisp, GoofY more so as Iryna, but such is life.

11-08-12 until 12-08-12, Driving from Valdez to Anchorage (AK)

some nice waterfall Unfortunately we had to go back the same way as we came in but so be it. After leaving Valdez in a kinda foggy situation weather wise, we crossed Thompson pass & the weather cleared. Immediate we understood why it was called a very scenic route... Just look for yourself. The scenery is just beautiful. We passed amazing glacier and mountains.... Every time we're still amazed at the beauty of mother nature. We took our time driving to Glennallen, arrived there half way through the afternoon & setup shop. We did some internetting en ate our fresh Alaska salmon... . Ow before I forget, in Valdez we bought some King-crab legs. Iryna prepared them and did they taste good, it's definitely worth its money! Also, we bought a smoked salmon...mmmm Iryna made again a very tasty salad :) So we got plenty of healthy omega-3 fats already haha Any ways, in the morning we did some calling to Holland: Ede, Holland: Nieuw Bergen, Ukraine: Sambir & USA: Chicago eg we did call our family. Made a couple a emails & left for Anchorage. On our way we passed again through some spectacular mountains. And again we thought, wow the nature in Alaska still amazes us! (and than to consider that we had that same feeling yesterday as well, as the days before. I'll include a pic...some more from mother nature...After that it was on to Anchorage again, made a funny pic entering Anchorage (clickerdeclick). The weather was great, by the way very warm for Anchorage, +22C, but it felt as +32! Went to the Visitor Center to ask a couple things like oil change for the RV, Cinema & Walmart. You might wonder why a cinema, well, already from the 14th of July we're promising our self this movie. Which movie your wondering, must be something special. Well for us it is. Ice Age, continental drift. And boy we loved it. It's amazing that even the 4th in the series can be so funny. Pixar outdid themselves again. We also spent some time wondering around the market and guess what? Iryna got herself a very pretty neck-less (made of Alaskan gemstones) Anyways we spent the night in an incredible shabby RV park in downtown Anchorage, but as we need to get the oil done tomorrow, we'll just bear with it. It's just that it looked like that, but I guess it's not that bad, as it's pretty quit now (23:00). OK, that's it for Anchorage, from here we're going to Denali, probably try to do another multiday hike. But we'll see. At least now we've got the proper food for it (lightweight that is). Catch ya tomorrow.

13-08-12 until 18-08-12, Driving from Anchorage to Denali NP and hiking there

In the morning, Iryna enjoyed her long shower at the camping and we went to change the oil ($70, including a quick inspection of the RV) After that we did some small shopping at the Walmart (couldn't find a nice thermos-muk, better luck next time, maybe in Denali) Took gasoline in and off we went. Quite a bit of driving today, Monday 13th, at the end of the day, after eating Pilav (ground beef, onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, jalapeno and bell peppers, tomato's, peaches, fresh cilantro plus jasmine rice, that's Iryna's recipe of Pilav) Goofy felt asleep like a baby! The driving itself was quite intense: as we don't drive fast, most of the time we try to make some space for the other cars to pass by, plus the highway is not always perfect plus the views are awesome, so we do stop once in a while to watch the beauty. In the evening the weather was perfectly clear, we enjoyed the sun again! (if you are out of the sun, it's cold!) This evening we spent at a pretty camping (no fee charged) with a pick-nick table, fire pit and outhouses. Tonight we hope to see northern lights! By now it's the 14th and we're arranging the permit and the bus. To be able to do a multiday hike in Denali NP you've got to have a permit. Denali is cut up in sections and they allow only a certain amount of people in a section. So first you've got to decide in which area of the park you want to hike. As we didn't had the foggiest idea we asked one of the rangers if he could recommend some areas. He told us that section 34 & 14 are quite nice. So we booked those 2. After filling in our life story, I mean height, hair color, weight, color of the tent, color of our backpacks, addresses nationality, passport info contact address etc. We got our permit. With the permit we booked a bus into Denali NP itself. In the remaining of the evening we prepared the gear. As we had picked quite a few blue berries Iryna decided to make jam. So we did, 2 pots, so when we're back from the multiday hike we're gonna enjoy some nice homemade jam.
mount McKinleyToday we start our 3 day hike. This time we've got lightweight food with us instead of cans. Makes a world of a difference. Anyway, first we took the bus into the park, no private vehicles are allowed in Denali, except for the first 15 miles or so. The views were spectacular. Hardly any clouds so we had a nice view of mount McKinley. The bus ride took about 4 hours. When we got to our section we got out and battled our way through some very dense bush. Darn is that heavy. Fortunately it was only for half an hour our so. From there on the vegetation changed into tundra. We didn't walk that far as we decided that the view we had from the spot would be the best. So we slept with a view of mount McKinley. Spectacular, I don't know how many times I used that word during our trip but it's a lot. In the evening we had Pad Thai which tasted quite good. We relaxed, made a Sudoku and went to bed early. In the night it rained a little but nothing bad. The next day we continued to Wonder Lake. The good thing about Denali NP is that there's free transport once you're 20 miles in the park. So you pay $34 and you can hop on and off as often as you want. going both directions. To give an idea of the scale of Denali NP, it's 6 million acres. There's 1 dirt road going in, which is some 90 miles in total. And that's it. Rest of the park is only accessible by plane, on foot or horseback or so. Once we were at Wonder Lake we refilled our water bottles cooked a meal & were on our way. At Wonder Lake there's a little maintained trail so we followed that out until the river. On the way we saw quite a few bear foot prints. But we didn't actually see a bear. A couple we met on the trail though had to jump away from the trail as 2 bears came down the trail chasing each other. Once at the river we followed it for a while and then set up camp. Unfortunately that night it rained quite a bit. We weren't able to cook a warm meal so we ate some trailmix and a bar. In the morning we got up early because the tent was leaking a little bit. Best campsite spot everThat came because we didn't set it up properly. Such is life, happily we packed in the most important stuff dryly such as sleeping backs & thermo-mats. Then we hiked back to the campground. At the campground we met the same couple again as on the trail yesterday so we had a nice chit chat. Exchanged email addresses so maybe we'll be able to stay in contact. By now it's 12:30 so we're ready to take the bus back to the visitor center were the RV is parked. We're gonna have a nice shower and send an email to the folks back home saying that we're still alive and that we survived Denali NP. On the way out of the park we met a couple from Israeli (Yohnathan & Keren), which also did some backcountry hiking. It turned out that they were going to Fairbanks as well so we started chitchatting. After a nice dinner & some beers it turned out that the guy's father is living in Fairbanks. Well, as we were going there anyway we took them along. We let the folks back home know that we're still alive and slept the night in the same spot as before the hike. (a little outside the park on a turnout).

18-08-12 until 21-08-12, Driving from Denali NP to Chicken via Fairbanks

sunset Lost LakeThe next day Iryna made a nice breakfast for the 4 of us, pancakes which were very nice again. We tried the jam we made earlier & it taste so good!!! We took some fresh water in, dumped the tanks and were on our way to Fairbanks. One of the reasons we went to Fairbanks was to have a look at a foldable canoe. After a look we decided not to buy it but to look for it in Europe, after all they're made in Norway. We stayed the night at Yohnathan's father. The guy is 77 and is still teaching sociology at the University of Fairbanks. In the evening we made sushi & had some discussions about life, politics & everything in between. On a moment it was about Israel's capital. Govert thought it was Tel Aviv, oohps bad Govert. Israel considers Jerusalem as it's capital, which the rest of the world doesn't agree with, because of the Palestinian conflict. So most embassies are in Tel Aviv. There you have it, a little bit of total noninclusive information :-). The next day we continued on our way to Chicken, we said goodbye to Yohnathan & Keren. We spend the night in a state park at Lost Lake. As the sushi idea from yesterday was good we thought to repeat that today, unfortunately we bought the wrong wasabi & soy sauce and what was even worse, the salmon we thought to have bought wasn't there. We think the cashier didn't scan it because behind us in line came a couple who bought a lot of clothes which were partly over our shopping items. Well so much for sushi. After the meal we did watch an incredible beautiful sunset though.

21-08-2012, Leaving Alaska and driving Top of the world highway

Just a viewWe enjoyed Alaska a lot! It's an amazing country which offers a lot for tourists. The best of it was driving to Valdez, on a clear day it has a picture like scenery, also walking in Anchorage was interesting and of course backcountry hiking in Denali. It was such a thrill to hike where all these wild animals live! Picking blue berries and have it for breakfast/lunch and dinner if you like...We saw a caribou on our hike and were watching how its behaving when she saw us. Well, it hesitated for a moment and then decided to change it's route. We also saw fresh footprints of bears on our trail, but also his droppings and his scratches/marks. In one word, it was great to experience the Alaskan wilderness!!!!
So after visiting Chicken community village, well not so much of a city though: a couple of houses and a few small shops. This village is famous for it's gold mining. They have there special tours where you can dig your own gold, well we skipped that option. As Iryna didn't really feel like going with some 100 other tourists and soak in the river in search for gold. Anyways, we bought in Chicken a couple of presents and were on our way to Canadian border. At the border they didn't ask anything about fruits (as they did on our way into Alaska), as we were first in the queue we didn't have to wait at all! Here we go, driving on the Top of the world highway! Well, it felt actually like that as well. You drive for some 100 clicks on the top of the mountains ridge, with beautiful views on tundra and the mountains. We found ourselves a pretty spot to camp.

22-08-2012 until 25-08-2012, with a ferry to Dawson City(DC) and further driving to Watson Lake

House in DCIf you driving from the north of Yukon and you wanna enter DC you need to take a ferry (free). Well, don't think of a ferry like from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, it's 10 times smaller and can accommodate about 2 small RV's and 2 cars. But despite of that we got safely on the other side of the river! We visited the Visitor Center(VC) there, some of the staff was wearing traditional clothes of this area. It's a pretty little town, mainly tourism oriented. At the VC we watched a short film about the history of DC, it was interesting to see how this small town with almost nothing was growing into a big tourist attraction (it had again to do something with gold mining)
We took some gasoline in and went to the local library to use internet. From there on we were driving to Carmacks. We had a nice stop for a night at Fox Lake. Beautiful Lake where you can do some canoeing and fishing. For us getting a fishing permit was not an option....because we would pay for it something like $120 per year(which we wouldn't use anyway)...a Canadian resident would pay something like $10-20. So we better be off buying some fresh fish haha. The next day we were again in White Horse. Well, we didn't do much there, as we were there before. But we managed to get fresh salmon for the sushi, which Iryna made in the evening (this time with the right wasabi and Soy sauce)
From there on we headed for Watson Lake. We payed a visit to the library, where we had a chat with the women who works there. We met up with her again and told her about our adventures in Alaska and Yukon. It was interesting to hear some stories about the First Nation People(FNP). Apparently they were/and still are treated the same way the Aboriginal's in OZ are treated and it ended up, of course, in a sad story, like alcohol abuse and misbehavior... Green Peace have achieved what they wanted, save the seals but destroy the life of the FNP of the North. Something else what we have heard, was about the difference in physiology between the FNP and us, one of them is that they are handling the cold much more better then we do, for example if a snow flake falls on their cheek it doesn't immediately melt, as it does by us! Nice hey! Also they have an incredible sense of directions! Anyways, that’s some background info:)
Further we did some internetting at the Northern Lights Center and bought a nice but not practical thermos-mock haha. This night we spent at beautiful Watson lake campground.

26-08-2012 until 28-08-2012, Liard hot springs, passing by amazing Muncho Lake Provincial Park

Some BisonsDriving from Watson lake campground we came across a herd of Bison's, who were eating along the hwy. You don't wanna know how many pics we have made but we enjoyed watching them. Apparently they are frequently killed in the road accidents. For the time we were driving there we saw 3 bisons dead along the hwy. They say, it's very hard to see a bison on the road in the dark. If you are driving fast and he is there it's too late to escape him because you see him too late. Anyway, begin of the afternoon we were at the Liard Springs campground. Got a pretty spot for ourselves and went doing some soaking in the hot springs. Well, these hot springs are absolutely natural so you are swimming in this warm sometimes even hot water and walk on the sand and stones. Well, for us it's like a little bit strange, as we are more used to the hot springs pools which are regulated to a ' normal' temperature and you don't have to watch out for stones and stuff....and when we were in Yellowstone we saw this boiling water etc and now we were swimming in the natural hot springs of Liard.... Some nice soaking!We stayed one day at the camping and the following day we were driving towards Fort Nelson. By the way, not that far from Liard Hot Springs there is the Muncho Lake Provincial Park. Well, it's very beautiful!!! If we are ever in this area again we want to visit this splendid park again!!! Anyway, not that far away from Fort Nelson we found a nice spot for overnight. It was the former Prophet River Wayside Provincial Park.
28-09 Did quite a bit of driving, found a nice campground (surprisingly no fee). Tried to see the Northern Lights again, so set an alarm,unfortunately better luck next time.

29-08-2012 until 01-09-2012, We are back in Banff and Jasper

A new traffic participantDrove some 350km. While driving a stone crashed into the front window of the RV. Luckily the glass didn't brake into peaces but it has to be replaced. As it flew on the window side were Iryna was sitting, she was scared of the sound and of what has happened quite a bit. At the end of the trip you don't want these surprises but you can't do much about it.
On our way to Hinton we passed some great parks: Willmore Wilderness Park and William A. Switzer Provincial Park. It has quite a bit of campgrounds where you can do some backcountry hiking. That's kinda a place you want to explore next time. While in Hinton, we did some washing and tanking. Thanks to a lovely personnel at the gas station Goofy got back his jacket he forgot in the Laundry.
OK, here we go, Welcome again to Jasper NP! Having some hope for better weather then last time (for Banff) we are looking forward for some nice chilling time in these 2 parks. Because of lots of driving we just want to sit by the fire and do some internetting, in other words catching up with the world.
It's funny to see people who rent a RV cutting wood with a tiny little hatchet. When we wanted to lent the neighbors our axe somebody got there first (they also couldn't watch them having a hard time with the hatchet). It's kinda stupid that RV rentals don't supply the RV with a normal axe! Anyways, some good news today, Iryna baked a perfect bread! This time she used butter milk, other kind of flower and some lemon juice. We bake our own bread already for 2 month but it was always quite sturdy (Goofy likes it though but Iryna not that much) So this time it turned out to be good for the 2 of us haha.
30-09-2012, Lazy day. We had a nice talk with our parents, Iryna had a long talk with her sister:). It's a shame there is a big time difference between Canada and Europe, that doesn't make it easier for telephone communication. Now were are sitting by the camp fire and trying to catch up with making our travel stories. About the camp fires, we are so used to them... It's so nice to have a warm fire going, especially now when the evenings are cold! We think we gonna miss them a lot. As it's most of the time not allowed in Europe (having a camp fire at the camping :( ). But for now, we enjoy it a lot!!! By the way, this evening we grilled crab legs on our camp fire grill :) and had it with sweet and normal potato's and broccoli with delicious home made blue cheese-lemon sauce. Ow, something else, this evening is a special one, today we've heard for the first time in the last 10 month of our traveling a thunder in a distance:) haha.